By Tatiana Parafiniuk-Talesnick, as appearing in The Rocky Mountain Collegian
After a nearly four-decade-old career at Colorado State University, and with retirement around the corner, the dean of the College of Liberal Arts has many accomplishments she could share. However, Ann Gill is not one to boast.
“I feel incredibly blessed to have had this job for the last 36 years,” Gill said. “I learned and received way more from students than I’ve ever given.”
When speech communication major Joe Bohling was struggling to make ends meet financially, Gill was there to help. Bohling was an “excellent student,” working 40 hours per week to help support his parents, and after being unable to repay the University’s emergency loan, he was about to be dismissed.
“I can’t stand stories like that,” Gill said. “I just wrote him a check. I had no intention of him paying me back.”
But sure enough, Bohling paid her back before he graduated. Together, the two started the Bohling-Gill Scholarship for students who were in a similar situation. In addition, Gill started the Ann M. Gill Scholarship in 1998.
Gill connected to the students who needed her, and they weren’t just the straight-A students with perfect attendance.
“You find extraordinary people in sometimes surprising packaging,” Gill said.
Another student who benefited from her outreach is Tamara Dorrance.
Dorrance graduated in 1999, but she may not have if Gill and her office hadn’t given her the confidence she so desperately needed.
“There’s probably a long line of people who will tell you she’s the reason they graduated,” Dorrance said. “There’s a barrier that students have to get over. I had to navigate that barrier – she and her team helped me.”
Dorrance’s barrier was as simple as having a hard time, and needing that experience to be validated. She also found that having a woman on tenure who appeared to her as kind, compassionate and powerful was inspiring.
Linda Shapley is another alumna that benefited from Gill’s outreach. Shapley now is the director of newsroom operations at the Denver Post, and when she thinks about her college experience, she immediately thinks of Gill.
“She was just really smart and was so open to giving advice when we needed it,” Shapley said. “I kind of struggled a little bit because the balance between, essentially, working and going to school was a little bit tough for me. I went in and I spoke to her about it — she kind of helped set me right. (She was) just this amazing resource that I absolutely loved.”
When Shapley graduated, she took a disposable camera up on stage to capture a selfie with Gill. The two have remained in contact since Shapley’s graduation.
It’s not just students who have been moved by Gill.
“She has such a genuine soul, which I think is a very hard trait to come across,” said Colleen Timothy, the assistant to the dean for internal relations at the College of Liberal Arts. “She genuinely cares about people — she’ll drop anything to meet with a student.”
Timothy has worked with Gill for almost three years as her assistant. In her time with Gill, she said she has witnessed her love of human interaction and support of CSU’s student athletes.
“I would say that she is a caring, funny, people-centered individual,” said Bruce Ronda, associate dean for faculty and graduate studies at the College of Liberal Arts. “She’s ethical and principled, and she’s a great storyteller.”
This is Ronda’s fourth year as an associate dean in the same office as Gill.
Gill initially came to CSU as an undergraduate student. She did not complete her degree here, but she returned to the University for her master’s in speech communication. She then went on what she calls “a detour” and went to law school, becoming a public defender in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. When she found a non-tenure position at CSU, she gave it a try and loved it. She was offered a full-time position and picked up her Ph.D. at the University of Denver.
Gill said she is looking forward to staying connected with CSU. She “loves this place and loves its people” and is intending to volunteer and stay involved in the future. The dean does not appear to see her time at CSU as time given, but rather as time received.
Ann Gill is not one to boast – although she would have every right to.
“Just getting to know people and getting to know about them and loving listening to their stories and that sort of thing,” Gill said. “I think it’s just who I am, and it’s not that I’m special, it’s just that I’ve really enjoyed doing this kind of thing. No more story to it than that.”
Collegian Reporter Tatiana Parafiniuk-Talesnick can be reached online at email@example.com or on Twitter @tatianasophiapt.